Revised Parenting in the Age of Digital Technology
Revised Parenting in the Age of Digital Technology
Center on Media and Human Development School of Communication Northwestern University Revised June 2014 Revised Parenting in the Age of Digital Technology A National Survey
1 Table of Contents 3 Introduction 4 Key Findings 9 Methodology 10 About Parents Today Parent concerns Parent concerns about media and technology Parent stresses Parenting skills Sources of parenting advice 12 The Home Environment Television Mobile media technology Income and new technology ownership 15 Family Activities Favorite family activities Parents and children using media technologies together 16 Using Media and Technology as a Parenting Tool Keeping a child occupied Getting a child ready for bed Calming an upset child Rewarding or disciplining a child Educating a child 19 Parent Attitudes about Media and Technology Have new mobile devices made parenting easier? Positive and negative educational effects of media and technology Educational media and technology and less advantaged children 22 Parents’ Views about the Social, Behavioral, and Physical Impact of Media Parent attitudes about the effects of technology on social skills and behavior Perceived impact of technology on physical activity and sleep 24 Parent and Child Media Use Parents’ media use Children’s media use 25 Negotiating Media Use in the Family Family conflicts about media Media rules Parents’ sources of advice about media content 26 Family Media Types Media-centric parents Media-moderate parents Media-light parents 30 Conclusion 32 Appendix: Survey and Topline Data
3 Introduction In the popular press, much is made about how new digital technologies such as iPads and smartphones are revolutionizing family life. Children and parents alike now have a growing stream of new technological resources at their fingertips, offering increased opportunities for engagement, entertainment, and education. But while anecdotes about families and media abound, empirical evidence on national trends is much harder to come by. This study explores how parents are incorporating new digital technologies (iPads, smartphones) as well as older media platforms (TV, video games, and computers) into their family lives and parenting practices: • What does the family media and technology environment look like today?
• How widely have mobile media technologies been adopted? Are they making parents’ lives easier? • How does the role of newer technologies compare to that of “traditional” platforms like television, or to other technologies such as computers and video games? • How do parents use media and technology as a parenting tool, to help them get things done, or to educate their children? • What role do media and technology play in families’ “together” time?
• How do different parenting practices and parents’ own levels of media and technology use affect the use patterns of children in the home? The study focuses on families with young children and explores what is actually happening in the lives of real families, from all walks of life.
It is based on an extensive survey of a nationally representative sample of more than 2,300 parents of children from birth to eight years old. (The complete survey questionnaire and results are provided in the appendix.) The survey was informed by a series of four focus groups among parents of young children, conducted in California and Illinois. While parents’ comments from the focus groups and from the survey are included throughout the report, the key findings and all numeric data in the report are based on the results of the quantitative national survey. This is a revised and corrected report.
The original report was issued in June 2013, but due to weighting and computational errors by the firm that fielded the survey, GfK, this corrected report was necessary. For children’s advocates, educators, public health groups, policymakers, and parents, it is important to have an accurate understanding of what families’ lives really look like. Thus the goal of the present report is to deepen and sharpen that understanding.
4 2. Parents use media and technology as a tool for managing daily life, but books, toys, and other activities are used more often. Parents say they are more likely to use books, toys, and other activities when they need to keep children occupied than they are to use TV; and they are much more likely to use TV than to use mobile media devices. For example, when parents are making dinner or doing chores and want to keep their child busy, 87% say they are very or somewhat likely to give their child an activity to do or a toy to play with, 79% to give them a book to read or look at, and 77% to let them watch TV.
By comparison, 37% of those who have a smartphone or tablet say they are likely to give them one of those devices to use. In another common situation, when a child is upset and the parent is trying to calm him or her, parents are also more likely to turn to a toy or activity (65%) or to a book (58%) than to media. Forty percent say they are very or somewhat likely to let the child watch TV in this circumstance, but only 17% say the same about letting the child play with a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet (among those who have one).
When it comes to offering children a reward for good behavior or a consequence for bad behavior, media are a frequently used tool, although books, activities, and toys are still high on the list, and TV still trumps new mobile media. For example, 85% of parents say they are very or somewhat likely to reward their child with a toy or activity, 70% by letting them watch TV, and 69% with a book. In comparison, 44% of those with a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet say they are likely to let the child use one of those as a reward. TV tops the list of tools for delivering consequences for bad behavior, with 72% saying they are likely to take away TV time and 67% taking away time with toys or activities.
Of parents who own a mobile device, 60% report taking away time with it as a consequence for a child’s bad behavior. Strongly agree Chart 1: New Media Technologies in the Home Among parents of children ages 0–8, percent who have new media devices in the household Note: A smartphone was defined as “a cell phone that can be used to send email, watch videos, download apps, or access the Internet, like an iPhone, Galaxy or Droid.” Examples of tablet devices included “like an iPad, Kindle Fire, or Galaxy Tab.” Chart 2: Parenting and New Media Technologies Among parents of 0–8 year-olds, percent who agree/ disagree that “smartphones and tablet devices make parenting easier” 3 26 35 35 Somewhat disagree Strongly disagree Somewhat agree Smartphone Both Tablet device Percent 20 40 60 80 69 40 34 Key Findings 1. While new media technologies have become widespread, a majority of parents do not think they have made parenting any easier.
Nearly seven in ten (69%) parents say they have a smartphone in the home, and 40% say they have a tablet device. Among all parents, the vast majority (70%) do not think the devices make parenting easier, compared to 29% who say they do. Among parents who own both devices (34%), 38% say that these devices have made parenting easier.
5 3. Parents still turn to family and friends for parenting advice far more often than to new media sources like websites, blogs, and social networks. Ten percent of parents say they are very likely to get parenting advice from a website or blog, and just 5% from a social networking site. In contrast, nearly two-thirds (64%) say they are very likely to get advice from spouses, 35% from their mother, 32% from a pediatrician, 24% from friends, and 19% from teachers. Parents are more likely to get advice from their in-laws (18%) than from websites, blogs, or social network sites.
4. Parents do not report having many family conflicts or concerns about their children’s media use.
Nearly eight in ten parents (77%) disagree with the statement “negotiating media use causes conflicts in our home,” compared to 21% who agree with it. Parents also do not report significant conflicts with their spouses over their children’s media use: 84% of those with a spouse or partner say they usually agree with each other on this issue, while 15% say they don’t. Half (55%) of parents say they are not concerned about their children’s media use, compared to three in ten parents who say they are very (13%) or somewhat (17%) “concerned” (13% say this issue isn't relevant given their child's age).
Fifty-seven percent of parents say they are not worried about their children becoming addicted to “new” media, although four in ten (40%) say they are worried about that. Mothers and fathers differ somewhat in their perceptions of family conflicts and agreements regarding technology use. Mothers are less likely to agree with the statement that “my partner and I usually agree when it comes to making decisions about [our child’s] media use” (80% vs. 88% among fathers).
5. There is still a big gap between higher- and lower- income families in terms of access to new mobile devices. Overall, ownership of tablets such as iPads, Kindle Fires, or Galaxy Tabs has increased, with 40% of households with 0- to 8-year-olds now owning a tablet. However, the divide by income is substantial: among families earning $100,000 a year or more, two-thirds (65%) now own such a device, while among lower-income families (less than $25,000 a year), 18% do. Similarly, while over half of lower-income homes now report having a smartphone (55%), it is still far fewer than among higher-income homes (81%).
6. Parents are less likely to turn to media or technology as an educational tool for their children than to other activities. When parents are looking for an educational opportunity for their child, they are less likely to think about using media for that purpose than they are to think about directing their child to a book, toy, or activity. Six in ten (61%) say they are very likely to point their child toward a book when looking for an educational opportunity and 41% to a toy or activity, compared to 16% who say the same about using the computer, 12% for TV, and 10% for a mobile device such as a smartphone or Strongly agree Chart 3: Media and Family Conflicts Among parents of children ages 0–8, percent who agree/ disagree that “negotiating media use causes conflicts in our home” 3 18 31 46 Somewhat disagree Strongly disagree Somewhat agree
6 tablet (among those who own one). When asked about the impact of various types of media on children’s academic skills, the only instances in which a majority of parents attribute a positive effect to media are the impact of computers on children’s reading and math skills (60% and 53%, respectively, said mainly positive) and TV’s impact on children’s speaking skills (57% said mainly positive). However, even when a majority do not agree, parents are still more likely to find a positive than negative effect of media and technology on many of their children’s academic skills. For example, parents are more likely to say TV and computers have mainly a positive (rather than negative) effect on children’s reading, math, speaking, and creativity.
With regard to mobile platforms such as smartphones and tablets, more say they have a positive effect on reading and math, although a plurality say they don’t have much effect one way or the other. Lower-income parents (those earning less than $25,000 a year) are more likely than other parents to turn to TV for educational purposes. Half (52%) of these parents are very or somewhat likely to use TV or DVDs for educational purposes, compared to 30% of higher-income parents (those earning $100,000 a year or more). Similarly, lower- income parents are also more likely to think TV has a “very” positive effect on children’s reading (22%, compared to 4% among the higher-income group) as well as their math and speaking skills.
Similar differences are found in parents’ views about the positives and negatives of computers as well.
7. Parents assess video games more negatively than television, computers, and mobile devices. More parents rate video games as having a negative effect on children’s reading, math, speaking skills, attention span, creativity, social skills, behavior, physical activity, and sleep than any other medium. 8. For each type of technology included in the survey, a majority of parents believe these devices have a negative impact on children’s physical activity, the most substantial negative outcome attributed to technology in this study. Sixty-one percent of parents say video games have mainly a negative effect on physical activity.
A similar proportion says the same about TV (58%), computers (57%), and mobile devices (54%). TELEVISION COMPUTERS MOBILE DEVICES* VIDEO GAMES Positive Negative Positive Negative Positive Negative Positive Negative Reading skills 40 25 60 9 36 22 21 36 Math skills 37 18 53 9 31 23 18 35 Speaking skills 56 15 28 20 21 28 11 40 Attention span 29 42 30 27 19 38 19 45 Creativity 46 24 50 14 31 27 26 36 Social skills 34 30 20 35 16 39 11 50 Behavior 23 35 17 20 12 30 8 48 Sleep 11 39 7 30 6 36 4 49 Physical activity 20 58 10 57 8 54 10 61 Table 1: Parents’ Opinions about Media’s Effects Among parents of children ages 0–8, percent who say each medium has a mainly positive or negative effect on children's .
* Mobile devices were defined as “such as smartphones and tablets.”
7 9. Many parents report using media technology with their children, but this “joint media engagement” drops off markedly for children who are six or older. About three in ten parents say that when their children are watching TV (31%), using the computer (29%), or playing on a smartphone (29%), the parent is doing so along with the child “all or most” of the time. Interestingly, fewer parents report that level of co-viewing when using an iPad or similar device (21%). This type of joint media engagement decreases as the child gets older, so that among 6- to 8-year-olds, the comparable rates are 23% for TV, 20% for computers, 13% for smartphones, and 11% for tablets and other mobile devices.
10. Parents are creating vastly different types of media environments for their children to grow up in, and, not surprisingly, the choices they make are strongly related to their children’s media use. The study identified three different parenting styles regarding the family’s approach to media: media-centric families, media-moderate families, and media-light families. Rather than the commonly presented scenario of children driving more and more media use and parents trying to moderate it, this study found something different, at least among children ages 0–8: parents set the tone and create a “family media ecology” that permeates through the generations.
About a quarter of parents (27%) are media-centric parents: They themselves love using media and spend an average of 11 hours a day using it (11:04), including more than four hours a day watching TV (4:28), three and a half hours a day using the computer at home (3:37), nearly two hours a day using their smartphones (1:48), and half an hour a day playing video games (:36). These parents often leave the TV on in the home all or most of the time whether anyone is watching it or not (54%), and nearly half (48%) have a TV in their child’s bedroom. These families really like watching TV together, with 56% saying their family enjoys that “a lot.” More than eight in ten of these parents (81%) say they are “very” or “somewhat” likely to use TV to occupy their child when they need to do chores or make dinner, and four in ten (41%) say they are very or somewhat likely to have their child watch TV when they are getting them ready for bed.
And about one in four of these media-centric parents (23%) say they use media as a way to connect with their children. Children with media-centric parents spend an average of 4:29 a day using screen media, 2:50 more than the children of “media-light” parents.
The largest group of parents —roughly half (47%) —are in the media-moderate group: These parents spend an average of just under five hours a day (4:42) using screen media at home; they watch TV for about two hours a day (2:14), use the computer for about an hour and a half (1:25), and are on their smartphone for a half hour (:32) and on their tablets or other devices for about 18 minutes a day. They do not play many video games (:12). While they like TV, they are less likely to list watching TV and movies together as a favorite family activity (42% say they enjoy it “a lot”), and they are more likely to enjoy doing things together outside (52%, compared to 44% among the media-centric families).
Children in “media-moderate” families spend just under three hours a day (2:53) with screen media.
Media-light families make up the final quarter (26%) of all families: These parents average less than two hours a day with screen media (1:48). They watch TV for just under an hour a day (:56) and use their computer at home for just over a half hour a day (:33). Beyond that, they spend very little time with screen media, including using a smartphone (:10); using iPads, iPod Touches, or similar devices (:06); or playing video games (:03). They are much less likely to put a TV in their child’s bedroom (28%, compared to 48% in media-centric homes). These families are less likely to enjoy watching TV or movies together a lot as a family activity (32%, compared to 56% of media- centric families); and media-light parents are less likely to use TV to occupy their child when they need to get things done around the home (69%, compared to 81% of media- centric parents) or when they are getting their child ready for bed (24%, compared to 41% among media-centric parents).
Children in media-light families spend an average of 1:39 a day using screen media.
8 MEDIA-CENTRIC PARENTS MEDIA-MODERATE PARENTS MEDIA-LIGHT PARENTS PROPORTION OF ALL PARENTS 27% 47% 26% Average parent screen media time per day 11:04a 4:42b 1:48c Average child screen media time per day 4:29a 2:53b 1:39c Percent with TV in the child’s bedroom 48a 33b 28b Percent who say the TV is “hardly ever” or “never” left on when no one is watching 13a 18b 36c Percent who say the TV is left on “all or most” of the time, whether anyone is watching or not 54a 33b 19c Percent whose families enjoy watching TV or movies at home together “a lot” 56a 42b 32c Percent who “strongly” or “somewhat” agree that they use media as a way to connect with their kids 23a 17b 12c Percent who are “very” or “somewhat” likely to have their child watch a TV show while the parent gets chores done or makes dinner 81a 81a 69b Percent who are “very” or “somewhat” likely to have their child watch a TV show when getting them ready for bed 41a 34b 24c Note: Statistical significance is denoted across rows; items that share a common superscript do not differ significantly.
Table 2: Media Parenting Styles Characteristics of media-related parenting styles among parents of children ages 0–8
9 Methodology This report is based on a nationally representative survey of 2,326 parents of children aged eight years old and younger, conducted from November 27 to December 10, 2012. The survey was conducted for Northwestern University’s Center on Media and Human Development by GfK (formerly Knowledge Networks) and was offered in English or Spanish. This is a revised and corrected report. The original report was issued in June 2013, but due to weighting and computational errors by the firm that fielded the survey, GfK, this corrected report was necessary.
The survey used KnowledgePanel, an online probability panel that has been recruited through national random surveys (originally by telephone and now almost entirely by address- based sampling).
Households that are not online are provided with Notebook computers and access to the Internet so they can participate. Unlike Internet convenience panels (also known as “opt-in” panels) that include only individuals with Internet access who volunteer or are recruited through word- of-mouth to be part of research, KnowledgePanel recruitment uses dual sampling frames that include both listed and unlisted telephone numbers, telephone and non-telephone households, and cellphone-only households, as well as households with and without Internet access. Only persons sampled through these probability-based techniques are eligible to participate on KnowledgePanel.
Unless invited to do so as part of these national samples, no one on their own can volunteer to be on the panel. The margin of error for the full sample is +/-3.0 percentage points. The completion rate for the survey was 50%.
The full questionnaire and all topline results are presented in the appendix to this report. Percentages may not total 100 percent due to rounding, refused/don’t know responses, or because multiple responses were allowed. An asterisk (*) indicates a value of less than 0.5%. The report is based on the national survey of parents of children aged eight and under. Throughout the report, when we refer to “families” or “parents,” we mean families and parents with children in this age range. “Lower-income” families include those with annual incomes of less than $25,000 a year; “higher-income” includes those earning more than $100,000 a year.
In the survey, a “smartphone” was defined as “a cellphone that can be used to send email, watch videos, download apps, or access the Internet (like an iPhone, Galaxy, or Droid).” A tablet was defined as a device “like an iPad, Kindle Fire, or Galaxy Tab.” A handheld video-game player was defined as a device “like a Gameboy, PSP, or Nintendo DS.” A video iPod was defined as “like an iPod Touch or similar device.” An e-reader was defined as “like a Kindle or a Nook.” An educational game player was defined as “like a Leapster.” When survey questions referred to “mobile devices” those were defined as “like a smartphone, iPad, or similar device.” In tables where statistical significance has been calculated, the results are noted through a series of superscripts (a, b, or c).
Items that share a common superscript do not differ significantly (p
10 About Parents Today Parent concerns. When asked about potential parenting concerns regarding their young children, the greatest number of parents are “very” or “somewhat” concerned about their child’s health and safety (46%) and fitness and nutrition (40%). A little over one-third of parents express concerns over their children’s social and emotional skills (38%) and behavior (38%). One in three parents (30%) of children in this young age group report that they are very or somewhat concerned about their child’s media use. Of course, parents’ concerns for their children change as their children grow up and go through different developmental stages.
For example, few parents of children under age 2 are concerned about their child’s school performance (21%), compared to 44% of parents of 6- to 8-year-old children. Similarly, more parents of children under age 2 are concerned about sleep patterns (34%), compared to 28% of parents of 6- to 8-year-olds. PARENTS OF CHILDREN UNDER 2 YEARS OLD PARENTS OF 2- TO 5-YEAR-OLDS PARENTS OF 6- TO 8-YEAR-OLDS Health and safety 47 Health and safety 43 Health and safety 47 Fitness and nutrition 40 Fitness and nutrition 39 School performance 44 Sleep patterns 34 Behavior 39 Fitness and nutrition 42 Childcare experiences 33 Social-emotional skills 38 Social-emotional skills 42 Social-emotional skills 33 Literacy 32 Behavior 40 Behavior 30 Sleep patterns 31 Math and science skills 39 Verbal skills 30 School performance 29 Literacy 37 Creativity and talent 27 Verbal skills 29 Media use 36 Media use 25 Media use 28 Extracurricular activities 31 Extracurricular activities 24 Childcare experiences 27 Cultural awareness 29 Cultural awareness 24 Math and science skills 27 Verbal skills 28 Spirituality and religion 23 Extracurricular activities 25 Sleep patterns 28 Literacy 23 Cultural awareness 25 Creativity and talent 27 Math and science skills 22 Creativity and talent 25 Spirituality and religion 27 School performance 21 Spirituality and religion 24 Childcare experiences 23 Table 4: Parental Concerns, by Child Age Percent of parents who say they are “very” or “somewhat” concerned about their child's .
Table 3: Parental Concerns Among parents of 0–8 year-olds, percent who are “very” or “somewhat” concerned about their child's . Among all Health and safety 46 Fitness and nutrition 40 Social and emotional skills 38 Behavior 38 School performance 32 Literacy skills 32 Media use 30 Math and science skills 30 Sleep patterns 30 Verbal skills 29 Extra-curricular activities 27 Child care experiences 27 Cultural awareness 26 Creativity and talent 25 Spirituality and religion 25
11 Table 5: Parental Stress Among parents of 0- to 8- year-olds, percent who are stressed about each issue Table 6: Sources of Parenting Advice Among parents of 0- to 8- year-olds, percent who are likely to go to each source for parenting advice or information Very stressed Somewhat stressed Money 29 38 Having time to get things done 21 46 Work 14 34 Having time for family 13 34 Parental responsibilities 12 36 Health issues 6 22 Very likely Somewhat likely Spouse* 62 27 Mother 35 33 Pediatrician 32 41 Friends 24 50 Father 20 25 Teacher 19 38 Other relative 17 35 In-laws* 18 30 Faith leader 16 23 Book/magazine 15 41 Website or blog 10 33 Social networking site 5 13 *Among those with a spouse or partner Parent concerns about media and technology.
Parents of children ages 0–8 do not express much concern about their children’s media use. Just under a third (30%) of parents say they are “very” (13%) or “somewhat” (17%) concerned about their children’s media and technology use. On the other hand, more than half (55%) say they are either “not too” (31%) or “not at all” (24%) concerned, while 13% say that the issue is not relevant, given their child’s age.
Parents’ concerns about media and technology do increase as the child gets older, from 25% among parents of children under 2 to 36% among those with 6- to 8-year-olds. Parents of boys are more likely to be concerned than parents of girls (34%, compared to 27%), with the difference also increasing as children get older. Among parents with 6- to 8-year-olds, 42% of parents of boys say they are very or somewhat concerned, compared to 30% of parents of girls. At the same time, some parents are concerned about their children becoming “addicted” to new media or exposed to media they do not approve of at someone else’s home.
Four in 10 (40%) are concerned that their child may become addicted to new mobile media like smartphones or tablets (but 57% are not concerned about that). Half (51%) of parents worry about their child’s media exposure at someone else’s home (47% are not worried about this).
Parent stresses. The biggest stressor in parents’ lives is money. Three in ten parents (29%) say they are “very” stressed about money, and 38% are “somewhat” stressed about it. Time is the next highest concern, with 21% saying they are “very” stressed about having enough time to get everything done, although fewer (13%) are “very” stressed specifically about having enough time for the family. Only 12% say they are “very” stressed about their parental responsibilities.
Parenting skills. Parents exhibit a strong sense of confidence about their abilities as parents: nine out of ten say they believe they have “all the skills necessary to be a good parent to my child.” This includes 57% who “strongly” agree and 37% who “somewhat” agree with that statement.
Sources of parenting advice. Surprisingly, websites, blogs, and social networking sites are not a very significant source of parenting advice. Parents are much more likely to rely on people than on media for parenting advice, including spouses (62% are “very” likely to turn to them for advice), their own mothers (35%), and friends (24%). By comparison only 15% of parents say they are very likely to get parenting advice from books or magazines, 10% from websites or blogs, and 5% from social networking sites.
12 The Home Environment Television. Television is still the central focus of most families’ media environments. Fewer than 1% of families do not have a TV; half (49%) have three or more, and nearly a quarter (22%) have four or more. About three out of four families (72%) have a console video game player hooked up to a TV. New television-related technologies have made it into the mainstream, with nearly half (46%) of all families saying they have a digital video recorder (DVR), and a similar proportion (43%) saying that their TV is connected to the Internet so they can download or stream content.
But there are still about one in four families (28%) who do not have cable or satellite TV and continue to rely exclusively on broadcast.
Many families keep the TV on as background noise, whether anyone is watching it or not. More than one in three (35%) families say a TV is left on “always” or “most of the time” in their home, while 22% say it is “hardly ever” or “never” left on (42% say it is left on “some of the time”). About a third (36%) of families have TVs in their young children’s bedrooms, ranging from 21% of children under 2 to 42% of 6- to 8-year-olds. Chart 4: TV in the Home Percent of families with children ages 0–8 with each item in the home Chart 6: TV in the Bedroom Percent of children with a TV in their bedroom, by age Television set Under 2 years old Digital video recorder Cable or satellite 2 to 5 years old Internet- connected TV Console video game player 6 to 8 years old Always Chart 5: Background Television Percent of homes with children ages 0–8 where the TV is left on in the background 7 28 42 18 4 Hardly ever Never Most of the time Some of the time Percent Percent 20 20 40 40 60 60 80 100 99 21 72 36 72 42 46 43
13 Chart 7: Mobile Technology Ownership Percent of families with children ages 0–8 with each item in the home Chart 8: Personal Media Devices Percent of children ages 0–8 with their own devices Smartphone Educa- tional game player Video iPod Video iPod Tablet device Cell phone Handheld video game player e-Reader Smart- phone Tablet device Hand- held video game player Mobile media technology. Newer mobile devices are also very common among families with young children. Seven in ten (69%) families now say they have a smartphone, meaning a phone that can be used to download apps, connect to the Internet, and watch videos.
Four in ten (40%) now have a tablet device such as an iPad, a Kindle Fire, or a Galaxy Tab, a rapid spread of a relatively new technology. One in four (24%) have a video iPod such as an iPod Touch or similar device, and a similar percentage (23%) now report having at least one e-reader in the home, such as a Kindle or a Nook. However, these newer mobile devices have not penetrated widely when it comes to young children owning their own devices; 6% of 0- to 8-year-olds have their own iPod Touch or similar device, and the same percentage have their own iPad or other tablet device. Only 2% have a cellphone.
Among 6- to 8-year-olds, 12% have an iPod Touch or similar device, and 7% have their own tablet device. This compares to nearly half (48%) who have their own handheld gamer such as a Nintendo DS, Gameboy, or PSP, and 25% who have an educational game player such as a Leapster (ownership of Leapster-style devices peaks in the 2- to 5-year-old age range, at 38%).
Note: See the methodology section of the report for a definition of each type of device. Note: See the methodology section of the report for a definition of each type of device. Percent Percent 20 40 10 60 20 80 30 40 69 27 42 25 40 6 24 6 23 1 2
14 Income and new technology ownership. This study uncovered substantial differences in technology ownership between lower- and upper-income families. Not surprisingly, higher-income families are much more likely to have new mobile devices in the home, with the most dramatic difference coming in the percent that own a tablet computer such as an iPad, Kindle Fire, or Galaxy Tab (65% of higher-income families, compared to 18% of lower-income ones).
While the gap in smartphone ownership is also substantial, even most lower-income households have at least one smartphone (55%, compared to 81% of higher-income households). Interestingly, tablets have already surpassed e-readers and video iPods among all families, including those with lower incomes. LESS THAN $25,000 A YEAR $25,000– 49,999 A YEAR $50,000– 99,999 A YEAR $100,000 A YEAR OR MORE Smartphone 55a 61a 75b 81c Tablet device 18a 28b 47c 65d e-Reader 10a 18b 27c 36d Video iPod 11a 21b 28c 33c Note: See the methodology section of the report for a definition of each type of device.
Table 7: Mobile Technology Ownership, by Income Percent of parents of 0- to 8-year-olds with each item in the household “ “ “ “ “ “ ” ” ” ” ” ” Lately he only wants to play Minecraft or watch Minecraft videos on YouTube. It verges on an addiction. [Survey response from the mother of an 8-year-old boy] My four year old is very well rounded . There is never a dull moment. The television is secondary. We spend a lot of time in the kitchen preparing meals, singing, and reminiscing. [Survey response from the mother of a 4-year-old girl] We spend most of our time outdoors if weather permits. [Survey response from the mother of a 4-year-old boy] Her TV time is normally evening time with mom and dad.
[Survey response from the mother of a one-year-old girl] Our pattern is to allow [our son] to crawl into bed with us on Saturday and Sunday morning, and he watches cartoons for about 2 hours. [Survey response from the father of a 3-year-old boy] Friday night is family movie night. [Survey response from the mother of a 6-year-old boy]
15 Family Activities Favorite family activities. When asked which activities their family enjoys doing together, fewer parents report enjoying using media together compared to other activities such as cooking and eating meals together (66% say they enjoy that “a lot”); doing things outside, like playing, taking a walk, or going to the park (52%); or singing songs or making music together (30%). Among media activities, watching TV or movies together at home was ranked highest (43%), followed by using a computer, tablet device, or smartphone together (16%), and playing video games together (11%).
Parents and children using media technologies together. Parents and children frequently use media technologies together, at least when children are very young (5 and under). Among parents of children ages 0–8, three out of ten parents say that when their child is watching TV (31%), using the computer (29%), or playing on a smartphone (29%), the parent is watching or playing along with them “all or most” of the time. Parental coviewing of all media goes down as the child grows up. For example, more than half (53%) of parents with children under two say they watch TV with their child all or most of the time the child is watching; among 2- to 5-year- olds, the rate of parental co-viewing goes down to 32%; and among 6- to 8-year-olds, only 23% of parents co-view all or most of the time.
Still, the raw amount of time spent co-viewing may be greater among the 6- to 8-year-olds, given that they watch more TV than younger children. UNDER 2 YEARS OLD 2 TO 5 YEARS OLD 6 TO 8 YEARS OLD Watching TV 53a 32b 23c Using the computer — 40a 20b Playing console video games — 28a 9b Using an iPad, iPod Touch, or similar device — 28a 11b Using a smartphone for games, videos, or Internet — 34a 13b Table 10: Parental Co-Engagement, by Child Age Among parents whose children engage in each activity, the percent who do it with the child “all or most of the time” the child is doing it Table 8: Favorite Family Activities Percent of parents of 0- to 8-year-olds who say their family enjoys doing each activity together Table 9: Parental Co-Engagement, by Technology Among parents whose 0- to 8-year-olds engage in each activity, the percent who say they do the activity with the child Cooking and eating meals together 66 27 Doing things outside together 52 40 Reading together 47 39 Playing with toys, games, or art together 46 43 Watching TV or movies together at home 43 42 Singing songs or making music together 30 36 Playing or attending sports together 20 29 Using computer, tablet, or smartphone together 16 35 Playing video games together 11 27 Participating in clubs or other groups together 8 21 Watching TV 31 57 Using the computer 29 41 Using a smartphone for games, videos or the Internet 29 35 Using an iPad, iPod Touch, or similar device 21 42 Playing console video games 16 36 Playing games on a handheld player 4 24 Enjoys a Lot All or most of the time Enjoys Somewhat Some of the time Note: A dash in the column ) indicates that the sample size was too small for reliable results.
16 Keeping a child occupied. All parents have those moments when they need something to keep their children occupied so they can get things done around the house, whether it is taking a shower, paying the bills, or making dinner. Many parents turn to technology in these circumstances, but most say they are even more likely to use books, toys, and activities to keep children occupied. When they do turn to media, it is most likely to be TV. So far, mobile devices are not playing a big role in this regard. For example, when parents need to prepare dinner or do chores and are looking to keep their children occupied, 52% say they are “very” likely to give their children a toy or activity to engage in, compared to 36% who are very likely to put them in front of a TV show to watch and 12% to give them a mobile device to use (among those who have a mobile device).
Similarly, 30% of parents say they are “very” likely to give their children a toy or activity to occupy them when they are out at a restaurant, compared to 14% who say the same about giving their children a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet (among those who own one). Not surprisingly, use of media to keep children occupied varies by child age: for example, among parents who own a mobile device, 17% say they are very or somewhat likely to give one to their under-2-year-old child when they need to get things done around the house, compared to 41% and 42% among parents of 2- to 5- and 6- to 8-year-olds, respectively.
Similar differences apply when families are out at a restaurant. Getting a child ready for bed. While it’s still common for children to go to bed with a book or a story at night, it’s certainly not a universal practice; and going to bed with a TV show instead of a book is no longer a rarity. When getting children ready for bed, a third (33%) of parents are at least “somewhat” likely to let their child watch a TV show or DVD; very few parents are likely to let them use a handheld gaming device (5% among those who own one) or mobile device (8% among those who own one) when getting ready for bed.
More than half (54%) of parents are “very” likely and another quarter (24%) are “somewhat” likely to give their child a book to read when getting them ready for bed. Again, there are fewer differences by age, but some do exist: for example, 21% of parents say they are very or somewhat likely to put their under-two-year-old to bed using TV, compared to 38% of Using Media and Technology as a Parenting Tool Table 11: Parenting Tools to Keep Child Busy Around the House Percent of parents of 0- to 8-year-olds who are likely to give their child each item to keep them busy while making dinner or doing chores Very Likely Somewhat Likely Activity or toy 52 36 Book 39 40 TV show or DVD 36 41 Handheld video game player 18 29 Mobile device 12 25 Computer 10 25 Notes: Answers for handheld gamers and mobile devices are among those who own such a device.
See the methodology section of the report for a definition of each type of device.
Table 12: Parenting Tools to Keep Child Occupied at a Restaurant Percent of parents of 0- to 8-year-olds who are likely to give their child each item while at a restaurant Very Likely Somewhat Likely Activity or toy 30 34 Book 18 30 Mobile device 14 24 TV show or DVD 3 6 Handheld video game player 7 16 Computer 2 3 Notes: Answers for handheld gamers and mobile devices are among those who own such a device. See the methodology section of the report for a definition of each type of device. Table 13: Parenting Tools at Bedtime Percent of parents of 0- to 8-year-olds who are likely to give their child each item when getting them ready for bed Very Likely Somewhat Likely Book 54 24 TV show or DVD 12 21 Activity or toy 6 13 Mobile device 2 6 Handheld video game player 2 3 Computer 1 3 Notes: Answers for handheld gamers and mobile devices are among those who own such a device.
See the methodology section of the report for a definition of each type of device.
17 parents of 2- to 5-year-olds and 34% of parents of 6- to 8-year-olds. Calming an upset child. When a child is upset and the parent is trying to calm him or her down, parents are more likely to turn to a toy or activity (65% “very” or “somewhat” likely) or a book (58%) than to media. However, 41% are at least “somewhat” likely to let the child watch TV in this circumstance, but only 17% are likely to use a handheld gaming device, 17% to let him or her use a mobile device (among those who have one), and 11% a computer. Once again, the child’s age plays some role: For example, fewer parents use a toy or activity as the child gets older, and more use a handheld gaming device.
Rewarding or disciplining a child. Many parents do use media or technology to discipline or reward their children. Television seems to be the medium most widely used as a tool for this purpose, with mobile devices lagging behind. Even TV, however, is not as widely used to reward or discipline as books or toys. Naturally, using technology as a tool to reward or discipline a child increases as the child gets older; eight in ten parents of 6- to 8-year-olds say they are very or somewhat likely to take away TV or a handheld gaming device as a consequence, compared to three in ten parents of children under 2.
Educating a child. When parents of children age eight or under are looking for an educational activity for their child to engage in, they are much more likely to direct the child to a book or encourage them to play with toys than they are to give them any type of technology to use, including computers. In this regard, books still reign supreme, with 61% of parents saying they are “very” likely to give their young child a book when they want him or her to have an educational activity; just 10% say the same about smartphones or iPads (among those who own them), and even computers rank far lower than books, at just 16%.
That is not to say parents think TV, video games, or mobile devices have no educational benefits .
However, when they are specifically looking for an educational activity for a child in this young age group, media are not the first —or the second—place they look. Table 14: Parenting Tools to Calm an Upset Child Percent of parents of 0- to 8-year-olds who are likely to give their child each item when trying to help them calm down Very Likely Somewhat Likely Activity or toy 31 34 Book 23 35 TV show or DVD 13 28 Handheld video game player 7 10 Mobile device 5 12 Computer 3 8 Notes: Answers for handheld gamers and mobile devices are among those who own such a device. See the methodology section of the report for a definition of each type of device.
Table 15: Parenting Tools to Reward or Discipline a Child Percent of parents of 0- to 8-year-olds who are “very” or “somewhat” likely to reward or discipline a child by giving or taking away time with each item Activity or toy 85 67 Books 69 15 TV show or DVD 69 72 Handheld video game player 58 67 Mobile device 44 60 Computer 43 55 Notes: Answers for handheld gamers and mobile devices are among those who own such a device. See the methodology section of the report for a definition of each type of device.
Reward by giving Discipline by taking away Table 16: Parenting Tools for Educating Children Percent of parents of 0- to 8-year-olds who are likely to give their child each item when they want them to engage in an educational activity Very Likely Somewhat Likely Book 61 28 Activity or toy 41 36 Computer 16 29 TV show or DVD 12 25 Mobile device 10 22 Handheld video game player 4 11 Notes: Answers for handheld gamers and mobile devices are among those who own such a device.
See the methodology section of the report for a definition of each type of device.
18 While books dominate across all age groups, use of screen media as an educational activity varies as a function of the child’s age and the type of platform. For example, two-thirds of parents (64%) of 6- to 8-year-olds say they are “very” or “somewhat” likely to give their child something to do on the computer when they are looking for an educational activity for “ “ “ “ ” ” ” ” I don't like that he watches 2 and 1/2 hours or so of TV, but I try and make it educational shows. It is hard to be with him every second when I have housework to do. [Survey response from the mother of a 7-year-old boy] We try to split between books one night, cartoons the next, then the iPad.
[Survey response from the mother of a 2-year-old girl] She has to be on Honor Roll to play video games. [Survey response from the mother of an 8-year-old girl] Because he’ll calm down and watch Sprout and drift off to sleep without a temper tantrum.
[Mother of a 3-year-old boy, when asked why she put a TV in her son’s bedroom, Illinois focus group] them (compared to 15% for children under two and 42% among parents of 2- to 5-year-olds). The proportion of parents who say they are “very” or “somewhat” likely to give their child a TV show to watch as an educational activity peaks among parents of 2- to 5-year-olds (at 44%), going down to 29% among parents of 6- to 8-year-olds. “ ” PBS KIDS —you know you don’t have to worry about it. [Mother of a 15-month-old child, talking about how she selects TV shows for her son to watch, Illinois focus group]
19 Have new mobile devices made parenting easier? Three in ten parents (29%) say these new mobile devices have made parenting easier, while seven in ten (70%) say they have not. Among parents who own both a smartphone and a tablet (34% of all parents), 38% say they have made parenting easier, while 61% disagree. Among the 70% of parents who say they do not think these tools have made parenting easier, 58% say one reason they feel that way is because of their worries that children will fail to develop important social skills if they spend too much time on these devices. An equal percentage say another reason is because it is harder to get children’ attention when they always have their heads buried in a device (58%).
About half (53%) say they are concerned that children can get addicted to these devices, while a third (32%) say it is because these devices are just one more thing for parents and children to fight about. On the other hand, among the 29% of parents who say the devices do make parenting easier, 71% say it’s because there are lots of fun activities for children to do on mobile media to keep them entertained, while a similar percent (69%) say it is because these tools have lots of educational content that teaches important lessons. Forty-three percent say the devices help parents get things done quicker.
Positive and negative educational effects of media and technology. The survey asked parents their opinion as to whether each technology has a mainly positive or a mainly negative effect on the educational development of children their child’s age. The identical questions were asked about television, computers, video games, and mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet devices. Parents were asked about the impact of each technology on children’s reading, speaking, and math skills; their creativity; and their attention span. For each platform except video games, parents are more likely to say technology has a positive than negative effect on young children’s creativity and basic educational skills (although many parents say these technologies have no impact one way or the other).
A majority of parents believe that computers have a mainly positive effect on young children’s reading (59% say very or somewhat positive) and math (54%) skills, and that television has a mainly positive effect on young children’s speaking skills (56%). Parents are more likely to find a positive than negative effect from TV on reading (40%, compared to 25%), math skills (37%, compared to 18%), and creativity (46%, compared to 24%) among children eight and under. More parents also say computers have more of a positive than negative effect on creativity (50%, compared to 14%) and speaking skills (28%, compared to 20%).
Thirty-seven percent of parents say that mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, have a mainly positive effect on reading, with 31% saying a mainly positive effect on both math skills and creativity. The one medium that runs counter to this trend is video games: when it comes to the effect of gaming on children’s reading, math, speaking skills and creativity, more parents have a negative rather than a positive view. In terms of the impact of technology on young children’s attention spans, more parents have a negative view than a positive view. About four in ten parents believe video games (46%), TV (42%), and mobile devices (38%) negatively affect attention span.
Still, there are many parents who think these technologies have no effect on children’s attention spans one way or the other: 41% for computers, 41% for mobile devices, 33% for video games, and 29% for television. Parent Attitudes About Media and Technology